TORONTO/VOLGOGRAD is a citizens’ peace initiative promoting friendly relations between the people of Toronto and Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad, in the Soviet Union. Two delegations from Volgograd have visited Toronto since February, 1984, and two Toronto groups have visited Volgograd. The most recent visit took place in April, 1986.
Volgograd has triumphed over the extreme ravages of war. The central core has been completely rebuilt. When Dr. George Ignatieff visited the city with Lester Pearson in 1956 the city was still a wasteland of rubble and ruins and, to his horror, bits of human bones were visible on the ground.
The city’s stalwart stand against the Nazis is commemorated in special sites marking individual acts of heroism. There is a boat mounted near the riverbank, aerated with bullet holes, which was used to ferry people and supplies across the Volga. The house of the famous scientist, Pavlov, near the river, its ruins carefully preserved, was held against the enemy by a few men for several weeks. To the west of the city lies Soldiers’ Field, a war memorial marking the battleground during the early stages of the siege of Stalingrad. To this day ten people a year, usually children, die from accidentally coming upon unexploded bombs.
Lioudmila Kouznetsova, a senior officer in Volgograd’s City Council, was a toddler during the battle. Her father died in the war and her mother was a pilot. Jim Houston and I visit Lioudmila, her husband Slava, son Sergei, and her mother. We ask her mother about her flying. She tells us that she flew a crop duster. Her single crew member threw hand grenades down onto the enemy below them.
We sit with this close-knit family; we drink tea and red champagne with the head of pink foam, and eat Volgograd chocolates. It is a special occasion; Sergei, just seven, has been allowed to stay up. Lioudmila’s husband, Slava, teaches philosophy at Volgograd’s detective training college. He is working on a graduate thesis, and recently had to spend some time in another town writing exams. He shows us a note from Sergei, sent to him while he was away. In large careful letters his son has written, “Dear Daddy: Good luck in your exam. Come home soon. I miss you. Love, Sergei.” Slava mimes the tears he shed on reading this first written communication from his son.
Sergei is shy. He has not attended a child care centre, but has been a “home child,” lovingly looked after by his grandmother. Last autumn he started school, attending School No. 50. Next year he will begin to learn English. He shows us his new reader, and after much urging is persuaded to read us a poem. I ask for the book and haltingly read a poem back to him. Sergei climbs onto the arm of the sofa and reaches for his ABC from the bookcase, and hands it to me. He has graduated from this hook, but I am at a more fundamental level in Russian, so he has found me a more basic reader!
Our group took three sugar maple saplings with us, to plant in the Friendship Garden at the foot of the famous Mamaev Hill War Memorial. When we arrived at the Moscow airport we were told that the trees would have to remain in plant quarantine, perhaps for six months! Two days elapsed before they were inexplicably released to us in time to join us on our flight to Volgograd. The trees arrived in Volgograd rather like us — tired, dry, and a little travel-worn. One of the deputy mayors helped us plant them. He made the appropriate speech, hoping that they would take root and blossom like the friendship between our two cities.
We brought a letter to Mayor Atopov from the Mayor and Council of Toronto which said, in part, “The City of Toronto would like to continue to build upon the relationship originally established between Toronto and Volgograd in 1943, in order to promote understanding between Canada and the USSR.” The next step is to formalize the relationship, to make Toronto and Volgograd sister-cities.
TORONTO/VOLGOGRAD’s address is: 37 Castle Frank Rd., Toronto, M4W 2ZS.
Professor Derek Paul, a physicist and Research Director of Science for Peace, attended a conference in Moscow from May 28 to 30.
CANDIS: Where was it and how did you happen to go?
Paul: The conference was held at the Centralny Hotel in Moscow, which, despite its name, is on the edge of the city, past the last subway stop. I was invited by the Academy of Sciences. The Vice President for Physical Sciences, Yevgeny Velikhov, is an excellent person, and probably as close to the leadership as any other scientist. He is in charge of the Chernobyl clean-up, so he was not available all three days of the conference. But I did get into his press conference on the Chernobyl accident, which cleared up a lot of questions. Velikhov seems to be sincerely committed to disarmament. He said that Chemobyl had affected him profoundly and deepened his commitment, and I believe him.
CANDIS: Who attended the conference?
Paul: The Academies of Science across the Soviet Union and across the Warsaw Pact and friendly Asian countries were all invited, and virtually all the presidents of these academies attended. About 150 non-Soviets were in attendance too.
CANDIS: You were interviewed by the press there?
Paul.’ I had only two interviews this time. One was with Kiev television. They wanted to know about a study done in Canada in which at least one fire was deliberately set to estimate the effects of forest fires on nuclear winter. I said that the results showed that the smoke from a forest fire appeared to be less effective in producing nuclear winter than the smoke from a city. The second result from this was that, if there were a nuclear winter, Canada is the country that would be most affected. The Soviet Union would be second.
The other interview was with the editor of a journal for scientific workers. She was very clued in, and we had a long talk. Izvestia, on the other hand, did not interview me, but they quoted from what I had said at the conference and added stuff that I had not said. They had me saying things that were out of character with what I went to Moscow to say.
CANDIS: What did you go to Moscow to say?
Paul: That the Gorbachev initiative is very good but that there are things that the Soviets could do that they haven’t done to bring about chemical and conventional disarmament. I was both complimentary and tactfully critical. My paper got a response from a Soviet speaker, who essentially denied that the Soviets had missed any opportunities for chemical disarmament and who stated that the Americans were manufacturing binary chemical weapons, both of which Statements are untrue. What was good was that I was given the opportunity to set the record straight on facts, which I think might not have been possible in previous conferences I have attended in Moscow. So there was progress there. It was important because there were many Soviet academicians present who are not as near the centre of things and who are unlikely to know about Western efforts at chemical disarmament.
One needed, I said, to read my paper while being aware of the hidden agenda, namely that the Americans are not going to respond to the Soviet moratorium initiative before the August 6 deadline. If you accept this speculation then you have to say “What else can we get out of the political and moral pressure that has been created by the moratorium?” I think they could, by beginning to destroy their own chemical weapons stockpile, prompt the Americans to delay the manufacture of binary chemical weapons indefinitely, and get a chemical test ban within a year. The Americans have been destroying their nerve gas stocks since 1982.
I think we ought to press for conventional and chemical disarmament even before nuclear disarmament. Ask yourself, if there were no chemical weapons and very few conventional weapons and troops in Europe, would anybody see any need for nuclear weapons? It’s the prospect of other kinds of warfare that induces both sides to keep their nuclear arsenals.
CANDIS: And the other papers? How were they?
Paul: A few were full of the all too familiar vague allusions to imperialists and full of self-congratulations about how great the Soviet policies were.
CANDIS: You say you are going back in July?
Paul: Yes. Velikhov and a small group of Academicians are. looking for further input from the West on disarmament questions, and are anxious to have a get-together well before August 6, which currently is the last date of their present moratorium on testing nuclear weapons.
In June, the sixth annual conference of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War —IPPNW— met in Cologne at a fairground that had been an outpost of Buchenwald. Protesters were leafleting at the gates against the imprisonment of two Soviet physicians, a Dr Koryagin, who had resisted the misuse of psychiatry for political control, and a Dr. Vladimir Brodsky, who was in Siberia for his disarmament activism. Since the Nobel Prize Ceremony last year, IPPNW — especially its Canadian branch — has been divided painfully over Brodsky’s case. Dr. Frank Sommers, founding president in Canada, asked the group to write an official appeal for him, but the majority of the Canadian physicians group voted against it, judging that to do so might antagonize their Russian counterparts and impair their effectiveness in working for disarmament. Sommers was not attending this conference, but staying in Toronto, waging a publicity campaign for his friend.
The conference was dedicated to the memory of Olaf Palme, whose widow, Lisbet Palme, sat in the front row beside Willy Brandt. Prime Minister David Lange of New Zealand, in a keynote speech, argued that the solution to the arms race is not technical, but political. A panel that afternoon included Inga Thorssen of Sweden, John Kenneth Galbraith of the U.S., and Valentin Falin, Soviet head of the Novosti news service. Galbraith, as always dryly witty, noted that the military-industrial complex of each superpower L5 of great service to the other. One initiates an innovation which is responded to from the other side — cooperation that keeps the arms race going, he said.
Except for the final day, when plans were made for meetings in Moscow in 1987 and Montréal in 1988, the rest of the conference comprised workshops.
In his workshop, Dr. Victor Sidel spoke on the topic that PSR is emphasizing now: the connection between the arms race and poverty. He noted the increasing poverty of black children in the U.S., as compared to live years ago. “Infant mortality for black babies in the United States is double that for white babies,” he said, attributing the disparity to cutbacks in medicine and social benefits. These are related to the sharply rising military expenditures, especially Star Wars, which will cost one trillion dollars to deploy.
“If $1 billion is spent on missile production, that produces about 20,000 jobs. If it is spent on modern military weaponry, it produces about 25,000 jobs,” said Sidel. “But the same amount of money spent on education or local health services produces about 50,000 jobs.”
Turning to the poor countries, he said that “half of the earth’s population lacks safe water supplies. Only thirty percent of adults in the poorest countries are able to read. This affects mortality rates in those poor countries.”
Dr. Sidel put a metronome onto the lectern, beating once per second. “Every day,” he said, “40,000 children die of preventable diseases. Every 3 days there is the equivalent of a Hiroshima. Each time this metronome beats, somewhere a child is killed or maimed. With each beat, the world spends $25,000 on arms.”
The world’s combined expenditure on arms is greater than the total combined income of the poorest half of the human population If the world decided to spend ten percent of the arms expenditure each year to liquidate the debt of the poor countries, in about 15 years that entire debt would be wiped out.
“What could be done with a very small fraction of the money!” exclaimed Sidel. “Smallpox was eradicated for $100 million — one hour of the world’s arms race! For about $50 billion, every poor child in the world could be given safe water supply, immunization, and basic health care. That’s the cost of three weeks of the world’s arms race.
James Thompson, a young British social psychologist, spoke as if he had over-rehearsed to avoid spontaneity. Yet the content of his talk was far from dispassionate. He reviewed disaster research showing that many people refuse to heed warnings — even when a dam breaks and they must flee.
American adults, he noted, overwhelmingly approve a mutual nuclear freeze, but most of them do nothing. They feel ineffective. Thompson says that to reach them, fear-arousing communications must be combined with proposals for action — something that will be seen as politically effective and which the average citizen is capable of doing.
“If you ask British people their priorities in public expenditure, health care (followed by education) is given the top rank. Only 3 percent of Britons want to spend more money on defence. So their hearts are with us. But most people do not regard themselves as politically effective. Whereas 57 percent would sign a petition, only 12 percent see that as the most effective thing to do….We are unrepresentative; the question is how to get some of that majority to join us, at least some of the time.”
Thompson proposes dropping the “petitionary mode” for direct action. “We must do things that are within the capacity of the ordinary citizen and which shift resources. The officials in government are not worried about people who sign petitions and go on demonstrations, but continue to pay their taxes.” Suddenly in my mind’s eye he changed from academic in cap and gown to zestful rebel, whooping and dumping tea into the Boston harbor.
Tom Wicker, a pink-faced Southerner who writes for the New York Times, chaired a session on the media. To his left were journalists from West Germany, Hungary, and the Soviet Union, and to his right, diplomatic correspondents with the Observer in London and the Washington Post.
Wicker and his American colleague, Mr. Doder, were refreshingly undefensive. Wicker noted that the keynote speakers had called for a new way of thinking; the U.S. press must not, he said, be expected to produce it, for it is a reporting, rather than an intellectual press. It tells what happened yesterday, rather than analyzing. It emphasizes “objectivity,” an even-handed treatment of the news which, at worst, can amount to an artificial balance. This tradition works against advocacy. Nuclear issues are complex, but U.S. reporters learn “on the beat,” mainly from their sources, who are self-serving. Few reporters consult more disinterested sources. Thus they tend to see strength as weapons and assume that the U.S. needs to match the Soviet Union in weaponry. They are nationalistic, with a deep faith in technology, said Wicker. ‘They are ordinary Americans.”
Our press is not controlled by the government or even by “fat cat publishers,” Wicker claimed, but it is influenced by public opinion. “We don’t find it easy to criticize the U.S. government because of the general public opinion.”
The Eastern bloc journalists did not match Wicker in acknowledging the deficiencies in their own system. Instead, they attacked the Westerners for “irresponsible journalism.” The coverage of the Chernobyl was hotly debated, with the Pravda man complaining that one Western headline announced 2000 immediate deaths. People in the audience, on the other hand, objected to the Soviet delay in reporting this accident. Mr. Kolesnichenko attributed this to the thoroughness with which facts were checked before being reported. However, he admitted that they had learned from this experience, and predicted speedier news coverage i the future. Then he charged Western papers with printing war-mongering statements that in socialist countries are prohibited.
Mr. Wicker asked how they decide what to prohibit and what to permit. The “Central Committee” and the Editor make such judgments, he was told. Then the two sets of journalists started arguing about censorship.
Since I happened to be at a floor microphone, I interrupted by noting that neither system does much to foster social change. The capitalist press must sell its products, which means that it cannot lead public opinion, but must cater to it. But the press in the Eastern bloc, which seems not to suffer from the same constraints, is hardly to be preferred: It decides behind the scenes what line to adopt, which makes it dull and unconvincing. Since it lacks pluralism or a political realm, it provides no real forum for the debate of controversies. Those of us who are seeking to promote new ways of thinking can hardly be satisfied with either system, though it is not clear what alternative might work better.
At a press conference, Dr. Chazov presented the most complete scientific account to date of the Chernobyl disaster. Then Dr. John Pastore read an important announcement: the release from prison of a member of the Moscow Group) for Trust, Alexander Shatravka. He added that Dr. Vladimir Brodsky’s case is being favorably reviewed, and that his release is also expected. The statement explicitly said that these actions were in response to the concerns of IPPNW members. It was an unsurpassed public relations gesture, the unique act that could heal the breach in the Tom Wicker organization and restore trust. That evening, the exultant delegates rejoiced over the prospects of détente implied by this single act. Dr. Donald Bates, the Montréal Councillor of IPPNW, expressed his delight to Dr. Chazov, who smiled and sent a message. “Tell Frank Sommers,” he said, “that this is my present to him.”
A few years ago the attendance at conferences of Europeans for Nuclear Disarmament (END) was 5000 or 6000. This year the topic was European security, and only a few hundred people came to Evry, a suburb of Paris.
The French do love their Force de Frappe. The French press declined to cover the event at all and patriotic customs officers detained a British group overnight and confiscated their “subversive” literature — a load of Mary Kaldor’s new book, Mad Dogs, which deals with the U.S. raid on Libya.
Kaldor, the editor of END Journal, spoke on European socialist parties’ disarmament policies: “With the exception of the German Party, the Social Democratic Parties are rather on-serious.” They are less concerned with peace than with the economic conditions of the working class in their countries.
“I think the real problem is how to develop international thinking. …We have to have our own policies for changing East-West relations. …The peace movement is much more transnational than Socialist and Social Democratic Parties. We really can support each other,” she noted.
Joan Ruddock, for four years the Chairman of CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament). has many of the same concerns. Though we had never met before, she and I were assigned to share a room, much to the benefit of my political education. Ms. Ruddock seems to be in her mid-thirties and almost certainly is not of working class origin, but she is devoted to the Labour Party. She stood unsuccessfully in one election and is ready to try again. I asked whether she believes that the Labour Party, if returned to power, would keep its pledge to disarm nuclear weapons.
“That’s why I want a seat in Parliament,” she replied instantly. “There’s no MP in the party whose main concern is peace. Having been Chairman of CND, I think I could have a useful influence.”
In keeping with Mary Kaldor’s promotion of “international thinking,” END encourages “détente from below” — the forging of individual links, as members of civil society, between East and West. One session was devoted to the ‘Helsinki process,” an ongoing series of diplomatic moves designed to improve relations among the nations of Europe with respect to security, trade, and basic human rights. This discussion turned into a confrontation between the Dutch IKV delegates and two officials of the Soviet Peace Committee.
The IKV is an interchurch peace organization in the Netherlands, which is pivotal in the European movement. Its leaders, Wim Bartels, Laurens Hogebrink, and Mient Jan Faber, are loyal to repressed peace groups in Eastern Europe. Faber asked Grigory Lukshin what his organization would do to implement the Helsinki Accords.
It was not Lukshin who answered, but a junior colleague of his, whom I know slightly. (He and another man had once been instrumental in deporting me from the Soviet Union for distributing copies of PEACE Magazine.) He told of a young Russian girl whom they had sent to the U.S. on a good-will trip. Her life had been threatened from the day she landed, and they hadn’t known whether to cancel the trip or not. It is to prevent such negative experiences, he said, that Soviet citizens are kept from traveling abroad.
Naturally, Mient Jan Faber expressed dismay. “When something of that kind happens to people from the Soviet Union, we and they have to protest against it!” he said. “It is absolutely necessary and it is a normal human thing that we meet and work. And it is the same when it is the other way around. We were in Czechoslovakia to see people from Charta 77. I was followed daily by the secret police and kicked out of the country. Then we, together with the Soviet Peace Committee and others, have to protest! And the same was true in Moscow recently when we visited the Trust Group and there was a lot of trouble. Then we, together, have to protest. And the same holds true when people are held at the airport here in France. All of us have to protest! If we could agree on that point this afternoon, I think it would be a lovely day! It is really an inspiring start of the ‘new détente.”’
Everyone applauded, smiling at the ploy. Faber, in his friendliest, most charming way, was teasing the Soviets. He knew perfectly well that under no circumstances would they join in protesting a decision by their own officials. And, indeed, the Soviet panelists responded that they couldn’t say anything about what had happened to Faber. “We have absolutely different systems, different traditions,” they said.
But Soviets are not all alike. The Soviet Peace Committee seems to be an especially rigid bunch, with certain exceptions. But the people at the prestigious Institute for USA and Canada Studies are sophisticated and, in many cases, liberal and humane, even judged by the highest standards of Western democracies. Sergei Plekhanov, a researcher at that institute, was the main spokesperson at Evry on disarmament, and he was impressive.
Plekhanov is fortyish, with thick glasses and an athletic build. His English is superb colloquial American. If he ever runs for office in Ohio, he’ll probably win; he held his own with the END crowd, so Cleveland ought to be easy.
People were skeptical about the Soviet disarmament proposals, which they liked, to be sure, but considered unattainable, and designed for propaganda purposes. The Soviets propose complete nuclear disarmament in three phases, beginning with a 50 percent reduction in five years. There are two conditions — that the U.S. forego its Star Wars program, and that the French and British not improve their nuclear arsenals — neither of which stand much chance of being met.
Plekhanov was comfortable and friendly in the rough give-and-take over this issue. He spoke with authority and listened receptively, taking notes. “These proposals are not cast in stone,” he said. “And they were not made in Moscow. They arose out of all the discussions we have been having. If you have other suggestions, we are certainly listening.”
A woman with an obscure accent said that the Soviets ought to deal with Europe and give up on the Americans. “They are never going to change,” she said. She wasn’t alone in this view. In fact, no delegates from the American peace movement had been given any place in the discussions.
Melinda Fine — the leader of the U.S. Freeze Campaign — did claim the floor briefly. “Most of the people who have spoken here rejected part of the Soviet proposal,” she said, “because they say that the U.S. administration will never respond to them on SDI and the Comprehensive Test Ban. But there are other pressure points for effecting change within the U.S. — namely Congress, in which both the SDI debate and the testing moratorium debate are still open.
Fine called upon the Europeans to oppose SDI and to demand an American response to the moratorium — especially just before the November congressional elections. She also appealed to the Soviets to stay with the moratorium until the elections, so the Freeze campaign can capitalize on it.
During this last discussion and unknown to me, another speaker was addressing a packed room nearby — the eminent Russian biologist, Zhores Medvedev. By the time I heard about it and worked my way in, the mikes were being taken down. However, Medvedev answered questions for a while longer. The CANDU is among the safer reactors, but the safest ones are in Japan, he said. Medvedev had exposed the earlier, secret nuclear disaster in the Ural mountains. He says that we must expect a Three Mile Island or Chernobyl every five or six years. However, after two or three more such accidents, people will not tolerate it anymore, and nuclear power stations will be shut down around the world.
He also said that independent peace groups, such as the Moscow Trust Group and Charta 77, have been ignored. If their analyses had been taken seriously, we would know more today. Charta 77, for example, was alone in exposing a major nuclear accident of 1977 in Czechoslovakia.
Whistle-blowing runs in Medvedev’s family. His twin brother, Roy, is a historian who gets away with publishing critical books about Soviet officialdom, while remaining in his homeland. Zhores, however, has been an expatriate for many years, but is still fully in touch with the USSR’s scientific establishment. That evening, at a party, he joined in a weaving chain of dancers frolicking on the grass — but only briefly. A moment later I saw him standing alone at the bank of the Seine, watching the last glow of daylight dance on its dark ripples.